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HomeLifestyleNetflix K-drama Dare to Love Me: Kim Myung-soo, Lee Yoo-young struggle through...

Netflix K-drama Dare to Love Me: Kim Myung-soo, Lee Yoo-young struggle through clichés in wonky romantic drama

Lead cast: Kim Myung-soo, Lee Yoo-young

Latest Nielsen rating: 1.5 per cent

The new romantic comedy Dare to Love Me throws together a frazzled modern working woman and a scholar with the manners and attire of a gentleman from the Joseon era (1392-1897) of dynastic rule in Korea.

But if you were expecting this to be another fantastical time-slip drama that bridges past and present, you would be wrong. True, the tropes are the same, but what’s missing is the fantasy and, ironically, some of the story’s credibility along with it.

The series is set in the present but the man in the hanbok does not come from the past. It is just that his family, which lives in a cultural village that upholds old traditions, is stuck in it.

That man is Shin Yoon-bok (Kim Myung-soo), who is blessed with good looks and has perfect manners. That is not why he draws the glances of curious strangers all the time, though – that would be because of the old-fashioned way he talks and behaves, and his traditional dress.

Yoon-bok’s work involves retrieving lost cultural assets. He collaborates with the police, but he is no ordinary investigator. In an early scene, we meet him as he infiltrates an underground black-market auction and locks all the burly foreign criminals inside before proceeding to beat them to a pulp.

Yoon-bok has ace martial arts skills and is clearly equipped to handle modern-day espionage, yet the show expects us to believe that he is unable to operate an automated kiosk at a cafe, or perform other everyday tasks.

Kim Myung-soo as Shin Yoon-bok in a still from Dare to Love Me.

We are first introduced to him in a cafe, where he is seated at a table opposite junior fashion designer Kim Hong-do (Lee Yoo-young). She repeatedly professes her love for him, causing an embarrassing scene in front of others; in due course this is revealed to be a particular habit of hers.

He curtly, but politely turns her down, no matter how many times she asks and no matter how many languages she asks in, always responding in the corresponding tongue.

This opening scene is a flash forward, after which the series returns to a time years earlier, when Hong-do was Yoon-bok’s kindly teacher.

He was mercilessly teased by others for his anachronistic behaviour, and she was the only one who treated him like a normal person. Yoon-bok has never forgotten her for it.

Lee Yoo-young as Kim Hong-do in a still from Dare to Love Me.

Hong-do is far less composed in the present. She is a tireless assistant in the fashion industry, robbed of her time and dignity as she caters to the whims of the celebrities and superiors who surround her.

She has eyes for a handsome young colleague, at whom she also repeatedly throws herself until she realises he is secretly dating her awful superior.

It is during one of the heartbroken Hong-do’s many alcohol-fuelled outbursts that she meets Yoon-bok, when he scoops her in his arms to stop her falling. He cannot, however, prevent the mascara from running down her face.

Mortified, Hong-do does her best to escape, confident they will not cross paths again.

Kim Myung-soo as Shin Yoon-bok in a still from Dare to Love Me.

However, the next morning brings a shock. She steps out of her small rooftop apartment and is greeted by the sight of her new next-door neighbour on the opposite roof – Yoon-bok.

Even when they are not at home, the pair constantly meet, whether at a local convenience store or an exclusive club Yoon-bok is trying to investigate.

This may not be a fantasy show, but Yoon-bok does have a habit of popping up out of nowhere, as if by magic, any time Hong-do is in need of a helping hand, such as when a nasty colleague threatens her or she falls over again.

Beyond the romance at the core of the story, Yoon-bok is on the hunt for a notorious counterfeiter of cultural assets, while Hong-do has to deal with a superior who is passing off Hong-do’s designs as her own.

Kim Myung-soo as Shin Yoon-bok and Lee Yoo-young as Kim Hong-do in a still from Dare to Love Me.

If none of this sounds particularly exciting, that is probably because the show settles for rehashing a sack of sorry clichés.

Its only attempt at trying something new – featuring a modern-day male lead behaving like a lead actor from a Joseon era period drama – is so bad it suggests innovation isn’t the production team’s strong point.

The show’s middling production values and uneven editing do not help matters, but worse is that some of the actors struggle in their roles – especially Lee Yoo-young, a usually talented performer who doesn’t seem comfortable in the role of Hong-do.

Dare to Love Me is streaming on Netflix.

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